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World Trade Center - 911 Memorial Park

New York CIty Skyline prior to September 11 © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The twin towers of the World Trade Center dominated the New York City Skyline prior to September 11, 2001. This photo captures the beauty of the buildings as seen from across the Brooklyn Bridge.

World Trade Center

On September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists hijacked several airliners and intentionally flew two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  These two monolithic styled towers, that stood 110 stories tall and had been a signature part of the New York City skyline since 1973, collapsed and crumbled into oblivion along with five smaller buildings,  The world watched in horror as over 3,000 people perished including over 350 rescue workers.  The ruined rubble smoldered for months as recovery workers searched for remains, and the site was initially named "Ground Zero". 

Ground Zero

New Yorkers vowed to rebuild upon the site of the devastation and to create a lasting memorial to the victims that perished on 911.  Unfortunately, bureaucracy, controversy, indecision and dispute kept delaying their plans.  Finally, construction was begun on the first of several buildings known officially as "One World Trade Center" or "One WTC" and unofficially as "Freedom Tower".  Adjacent to this new tower, the base of the original World Trade Center Towers has been converted into a memorial park to be known as the "911 Memorial".

911 Memorial Park

On September 11 2011, the tenth anniversary of the infamous attack, the 911 Memorial was finally opened to the public.  Although still under construction, it was finally made accessible to visitors.  The plaza-styled memorial contains two immense waterfalls and reflecting pools situated within the original footprints of the destroyed towers.  The names of the nearly 3,000 people who perished in the attack are displayed on bronze parapets surrounding the reflecting pools.  The plaza will be roofed with a canopy of green leaves from a large grove of white oak trees, with the entry pavilion of the Memorial Museum located within the grove.  All of it is within the shadow of the rising new obelisk of One WTC or the new Freedom Tower.

911 Memorial Fountain © Joe Woolhead / National September 11 Memorial & Museum
One of the fountains, in the footprint of one of the twin towers, glows in the sunset.

Visiting the 911 Memorial

You can visit the 911 memorial on your next trip to New York City, but you will require a visitor's pass to enter it.  The passes are free, and you can reserve them via the Internet.  Unfortunately, only 1500 people are permitted into the memorial at any time, so access is strictly limited to holders of valid passes.  To ensure your visit, it is best to reserve your passes many weeks in advance.  Here is the web page where you can reserve visitor's passes for the date and time of your planned visit: 911 Memorial Reservations.

If you arrive in New York City without a pre-reserved visitors pass and still wish to see the 911 Memorial, there are a few locations where a limited number of same-day visitor passes might be available.  You can go to the 911 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey Street, City Hall Kiosk at City Hall and Broadway, or South Street Seaport at Pier 16.  The Hop-on, Hop-off Water Taxi at South Street Seaport may also have some same-day tickets.

Visiting Hours

The 911 Memorial is open all year round.  During the peak summer months it is open from 10 AM until 9 PM.  From mid-September to mid-January the hours are 10 AM to 8 PM Monday - Friday.  Hours are extended from 9AM on weekends and holidays.  During the low season of mid-January to mid-March, the memorial is open from 10 AM to 6 PM.  Every day the last entry is one hour priory to close.  The entrance is located at 1 Albany Street, at the intersection of Albany and Greenwich Streets.

Getting There

The best way to get to the 911 Memorial is via public transportation.  You can take many of the Subway trains downtown to the Fulton Street or the Church Street stops and walk a few blocks to the entry.  By bus, you can take the M5 southbound to Broadway and Thames Street, the M20 south to South End Ave., or the M22 south to Vesey Street.  From New Jersey, you can take the PATH train to the World Trade Center Terminal.

Memorial Wall at St Paul's Chapel © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Here are a few of the many momentos left at the wall at St. Paul's Chapel not long after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Saint Paul's Chapel

Saint Paul"s Chapel is an Episcopalian Church located at 209 Broadway between Fulton and Vesey Streets.  It is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan.  When the original World Trade Center towers and their five surrounding buildings collapsed into ruin, Saint Paul's Chapel was on the periphery of the ruins, covered in ash and debris, but still standing.

It became a rallying point for the recovery workers digging through the adjacent ruins for     the remains of the lost.  Police, firemen, medics, construction workers and other volunteers came into the cool, peaceful interior of Saint Paul's Chapel to seek rest and solace from their arduous task.  The iron fence at the front of St. Paul's became the frontier, past which only the recovery workers could enter the ruins.

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Patches of the rescue workers © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The "Healing Hearts and Minds" exhibit at St. Paul's is a policman's uniform covered with patches of police and fire departments from across the country.

People began to attach memorial items to that fence during the long recovery period.  They left letters, photos, pieces of clothing, flags, quilts and numerous other items in memory of those missing and in tribute to the recovery workers still at the debris pile.  Soon the entire fence and the sidewalk in front of it were crowded with mementos from all over the world.  For several years St. Paul's displayed many of these items in a impromptu museum, but they have apparently moved beyond that.  You can stop in to the quiet chapel for a moment of reflection when you visit the 911 Memorial.

New York City Fire Museum

The New York City Fire Museum is located in Soho at 278 Spring Street.  It contains a permanent 911 exhibit honoring the 343 members of the New York Fire Department who gave their lives in the World Trade Center disaster.

New York City Police Museum

The New York City Police Museum is located nearby at 100 Old Slip.  They also offer a permanent exhibit dedicated to 911.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Amy Dreher / National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Photo Description: This image of one of the fountains at the 911 Memorial was taken on September 11, 2011, the 10 year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.